If you answered mostly in the affirmative, read on!
Many factors influence and enable work addiction. For example, many societies place a premium on people who work hard, making it more difficult to identify workaholics. Moreover, this addiction is not limited to a particular gender or industry and affects both men and women equally across the board.
For many professionals, blurring the lines between work and life is acceptable whilst they passionately build their careers. Usually, this isn’t a problem as long as your professional life is balanced with an equally important personal life. However, when your work starts to take on increasingly larger proportions of time, leaving room for little else, then you may have a work addiction problem.
The critical difference between those who work hard and those who are viewed as addicted to work, is about the long list of problems that excessive working causes. And, as always, we have to look at the impact a large workload has on each person. Whilst one person may be able to work in excess of 80 hours per week without any serious side effects, someone else may experience disastrous consequences as a result of the long hours spent toiling away.
Overwork, (a toxic, obsessive-compulsive addiction towards work), although more difficult to recognize, is,similar to other addictions, like drugs or gambling; a form of self-destructive behaviour. Its negative impact is three-tiered; i.e. psychologically, physically and socially. Research indicates that workaholics are at a high risk for poor health, burnout, depression, and lowered life satisfaction. Overwork also creates a myriad of interpersonal relationship problems, such as the neglect of children and spouses, sometimes resulting in separation or divorce.
However, it is also important to point out that the external pressure from the workplace does not createworkaholics. On the contrary, workaholics feel compelled to work unhealthily long hours because of internal needs that are typically linked with a desire to escape the anxiety associated with their intrapersonal lives.As such, workaholics often use work as a coping mechanism to deal with anxiety.
When viewed through a Transactional Analysis lens, the “responsible-workaholic” (seen here as an obsessive-compulsive personality style) is driven by a desire to “Be Perfect”. This behaviour is what Joines and Stewart (Personality adaptations, a new guide to human understanding in psychotherapy and counselling, 2002) call a “performing adaptation”. It is a response to parental emphasis on “appropriate behaviour and expectations regarding performance” on both a professional and personal level. The workaholic’s parents usually equate the worth and the value of their child with that of achievement. This child then grows up to become an adult who sees achievement (often at the expense of healthy self-worth and self-esteem) as a means of getting approval and of being acknowledged. Workaholism can therefore be defined as “working to be”.
Unlike those who truly enjoy their work, workaholics often feel worried, and stressed out. And while they don't get enjoyment from working, they tend to paradoxically, become increasingly miserable and unhappy when they cannot work.There is an authoritative inner critic which relentlessly drives them to overwork and to overachieve. They struggle to relax and to enjoy their accomplishments, as they feel guilty and ashamed when doing nothing as this generates feelings of guilt and reinforces feelings of shame and inadequacy.
Contrary to popular belief, workaholics cause more harm than good to their companies. The more workaholics work, the greater the negative consequences they experience, which in turn, creates more stress, and also ironically, decreases their productivity. And less productivity then results in longer hours at work; so perpetuating a vicious cycle of overwork.
In addition, they also frown on those who do not put in the same amount of hours as they do. And, because of a deep-seated fear of losing control, they micromanage their direct reports so as to ensure the work meets their high standards. This punitive attitude limits creative input, lowers team morale and erodes trust; factors that are increasingly important in a workplace that requires teamwork and collaboration.
Does your work style negatively affect your mental or physical health? And are your relationships in dire need of quality attention? Are you willing to be the victim of overwork, aptly recognised by theologian, mystic and poet, Thomas Merton, as a “pervasive contemporary violence against the self”?
Steps to limit your workaholism: